How Booze Affects Your Zs
The effects of alcohol on the brain are complex and have two distinct phases. Initially, alcohol acts as a stimulant. Your brain is flooded with endorphins which make you feel good and more self-confidentperhaps more talkative at that holiday party and less socially inhibited than we might otherwise be. Later, after alcohol has been in the system for a while, the stimulating effects wain and become sedating. Some recent research suggests that the stimulating effects of alcohol may be magnified during the early evening and bedtime. While it has been assumed that alcohol affects sleep by altering the circadian rhythm, recent studies suggest that alcohol may interfere with the bodys system for regulating sleep.
Restful sleep requires our brains to cycle every ~90 minutes through the various phases of sleep. Alcohol disrupts this pattern. Alcohol will generally reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and it will increase the amount of deep sleep you get during the first half of the night. However, as your blood alcohol level drops, your sleep becomes less restful for the remainder of the evening and your REM sleep is markedly diminished.
Why Does Alcohol Make My Heart Race
A spike in your heart rate is a normal and healthy response to certain activities like exercise. But if youve ever noticed your heart beating faster when you drink, you may have wondered: Does alcohol make your heart race?
In a 2015 study1 at Munich Oktoberfest, scientists measured the heart rate of more than 3,000 participants. Nearly 26 percent had a heart rate above the normal range of 60-100 beats per minute.
But since alcohol generally has relaxing effects, why would it increase your heart rate? Are some people more susceptible to this than others? And when should you be concerned?
Below, well look at why your heart might race when you drink alcohol, and what you can do about it.
One Drink Of Red Wine Or Alcohol Is Relaxing To Circulation But Two Drinks Are Stressful
- University Health Network
- One drink of either red wine or alcohol slightly benefits the heart and blood vessels, but the positive effects on specific biological markers disappear with two drinks, say researchers. Researchers conducted a real-time study of thirteen volunteers to determine whether a red wine with a verified high polyphenol content differs from alcohol in its effects on specific markers associated with a greater risk of high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and heart failure.
One drink of either red wine or alcohol slightly benefits the heart and blood vessels, but the positive effects on specific biological markers disappear with two drinks, say researchers at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre of the Toronto General Hospital.
Researchers conducted a real-time study of thirteen volunteers to determine whether a red wine with a verified high polyphenol content differs from alcohol in its effects on specific markers associated with a greater risk of high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and heart failure.
A large number of population studies have shown a protective effect of light or moderate alcohol drinking against the risk of death and the development of heart disease. Many studies have also reported specific benefits of red wine.
Select study findings:
One drink of either red wine or alcohol:
Two drinks of either alcohol or red wine:
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Caffeine And Increased Heart Rate
Caffeine can be found in beverages such as coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks. Consuming these stimulates the central nervous system, which gives you an energetic boost and increased alertness, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine . But, caffeine can also temporarily raise your heart rate and blood pressure, which can be dangerous, the NLM adds.
Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, according to the NLM, adding that those who are pregnant or breastfeeding or have such conditions as migraines, sleep disorders, GERD or hypertension or take certain meds may need to limit caffeine intake or avoid it altogether.
A small study published in the International Journal of Physiology in July 2019 evaluated the effects that energy drinks had on the blood pressure and heart rate of 40 study participants. One hour after consuming the energy drink, the participants had their blood drawn, with the results showing that their heart rate increased significantly from what it had been before they drank the energy drink.
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For most healthy adults, about 400 milligrams of caffeine daily seems to be safe, according to the Mayo Clinic. Consuming higher amounts of caffeine, can lead to such side effects as a fast heartbeat, nervousness, headache or insomnia.
Fact: The Health Risks Of Drinking Alcohol Can Vary Widely From Person To Person
Certain health conditions can make drinking alcohol more dangerous, Dr. Cho says.
For example, some people who are on cholesterol-lowering medicines may experience muscle aches when they drink alcohol.
Because alcohol and cholesterol medicine both are processed through the liver, they are, in a sense, competing with each other for clearance. So its important to think about your overall health and talk to your doctor about your personal risk factors.
Alcohol is made out of sugar, Dr. Cho says. So if you are predisposed to being diabetic or if high triglycerides is one of your issues, its not a good idea to drink alcohol.
Dr. Cho warns that if you have liver dysfunction or take other medicines that are processed through the liver, your risks might be different. Talk to your health care provider about how alcohol might interact with your prescription medicines.
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Isnt Red Wine Supposed To Be Healthy
Weve all seen the headlines about studies associating light or moderate drinking with health benefits and reduced mortality. Some researchers have suggested there are health benefits from wine, especially red wine, and that a glass a day can be good for the heart.
But theres more to the story.
No research has proved a cause-and-effect link between drinking alcohol and better heart health.
Components in red wine such as flavonoids and other antioxidants can potentially reduce heart disease risk, but they can also be found in other foods like grapes or red grape juice or blueberries.
It’s unclear whether red wine is directly associated with the health benefits seen in some studies, or whether other factors are at play. It might be that moderate wine drinkers are more likely to have a healthier diet and lifestyle including physical activity and lots of fruits and vegetables.
The best-known positive health effect of alcohol is a small increase in HDL, or good cholesterol. But regular physical activity is a more effective way to raise HDL cholesterol.
The American Heart Association does not recommend drinking wine or any other form of alcohol to gain potential health benefits. Instead, take steps to lower cholesterol, control high blood pressure, manage weight, get enough physical activity, stay away from tobacco and follow a healthy diet.
The Benefits Of Red Wine Might Be Overstated
The idea that red wine is good for heart health gets a lot of press, but the full story is more complicated than that, Gilstrap says. The American Heart Association, for example, says that drinking more red wine will generally not lead to a healthier heart.
However, red wine has antioxidant properties and flavonoids, molecules that can benefit heart health, in moderation. A 2017 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that moderate drinking had a positive impact on cholesterol, and that wine in particular increased levels of good cholesterol, which is an indicator of a healthy heart.
There are healthier ways to get the benefits of antioxidants and flavonoids, which are rich in almonds, berries, apples, citrus, spinach, and black and green tea .
All of the research with different conclusions can be confusing. Yet there are some clear takeaways: heavy drinking can hurt your heart health, while a standard drink over dinner is likely fine for most people. Of course, it’s best to talk to your doctor about your particular situation before indulging.
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What Does Alcohol Do To Your Heart
Alcohol has a number of effects on the heart, both in the short and the long term. When you take a drink, the immediate result is an increase in blood pressure and the speed of your heartbeat. Over the long term, heavy drinking can have an expansive negative effect on your cardiovascular system and potential damage to the heart and blood vessels.
Results of habitual binge drinking include hypertension, increased heart rate, and a higher risk of irregular heartbeat. Too much alcohol can also cause the buildup of LDL, or bad cholesterol, and the hardening of arteries, causing increased risk of blockages which may culminate in a heart attack or stroke.
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Does Alcohol Withdrawal Affect Your Blood Pressure
This is a bit of a catch-22 for people who drink. Alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing high blood pressure. However, alcohol withdrawal can also be a scary situation since many do not know what to expect. This anxiety can lead to high blood pressure. For long-term drinkers, having high blood pressure and feeling anxious can be a double whammy. This is when withdrawal becomes dangerous and requires medical supervision. Fortunately, our medical detox programs have a clear process for helping individuals work through alcohol withdrawal symptoms:
- Treatment evaluation
- Detox stabilization
- Aftercare treatment
Thankfully, when you seek out the help of a detox facility or rehab center, you are not going through any part of the withdrawal or recovery process alone. Alcohol withdrawal is difficult, and many people feel nervous when going through them. This is often because they do not know what to expect. Naturally, that leads to an increase in blood pressure. However, when you have the help of experienced rehab staff by your side, your blood pressure can remain normal. They can talk you through the process since they have helped others in your situation before. Talk to them and listen to their advice. Give each item they suggest a try. Not all of them will work for you, but one of them is definitely bound to help.
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Does Alcohol Protect Against Heart Problems
Some studies have shown an association between moderate alcohol intake and a lower risk of dying from heart disease.
But its hard to determine cause and effect from those studies, says McEvoy. Perhaps people who sip red wine have higher incomes, which tend to be associated with more education and greater access to healthier foods. Similarly, red wine drinkers might be more likely to eat a heart-healthy diet.
There is some evidence that moderate amounts of alcohol might help to slightly raise levels of good HDL cholesterol. Researchers have also suggested that red wine, in particular, might protect the heart, thanks to the antioxidants it contains.
But you dont have to pop a cork to reap those benefits. Exercise can also boost HDL cholesterol levels, and antioxidants can be found in other foods, such as fruits, vegetables and grape juice
Heart Diseases That Can Result From Alcohol Abuse
The heart conditions discussed in the above section can all increase a persons risk of a number of different heart diseases. Regular alcohol abuse can significantly increase the risk of high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and weakened heart muscles, all of which can lead to heart disease.
Heart diseases that may develop as a result of alcohol abuse include:
- Heart Attack Regular alcohol consumption can increase fat levels in the blood. This, in turn, can result in high levels of bad cholesterol. Excess levels of bad cholesterol can clog the arteries of the heart, which may eventually result in clots that can cause a heart attack.
- Stroke Alcohol abuse can increase a persons risk of both ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. Ischemic stroke occurs when the artery that supplies blood to the brain becomes blocked. A hemorrhagic stroke happens when the artery that supplies blood to the brain tissues bleeds or tears. Both types of stroke can occur as a direct result of alcohol abuse.
- Heart Failure Studies have shown that excessive alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart failure. Individuals who have 14 or more drinks a week are up to 10 percent more likely to experience heart failure, while people who have 21 or more drinks per week experience heart failure up 48 percent more than nondrinkers.
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Alcohol Consumption: Categories Measurement And Patterns
There are certain factors that are critically important to understanding and interpreting the data related to the health consequences of alcohol consumption. For example, how was alcohol consumption measured? What were the drink sizes and alcohol concentrations? How often did the subjects drink alcohol? What was the pattern of drinking? And was the study prospective or aggregate ?
The way in which alcohol consumption has been measured and categorized varies, sometimes making it challenging to compare data among studies. More studies today report alcohol consumption in terms of either drinks or grams/units of ethanol per day or week, and alcohol consumption is measured by self-report. Most investigators also define the amount of alcohol that constitutes a standard drink as 12 to 15 g .
Advances are being made to address these factors. For example, alcohol consumption typically has been measured through self-report. Future studies would benefit from using direct biomarkers of alcohol consumption, such as phosphatidylethanol , to corroborate self-report of alcohol consumption and distinguish among low, moderate, and heavy alcohol consumption . With this in mind, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism sponsored a biomarker research challenge to discover and develop biomarkers of alcohol consumption . Such a biomarker would corroborate self-reported consumption and bring more uniformity of reporting within and across studies.
How The Heart Works
The heart is a muscle responsible for pumping oxygenated blood to all of the organs, tissues and other muscles in the body. Kids Health reports that the heart accomplishes two tasks simultaneously: the right side receives blood from the body and pumps it to the lungs, and at the same time the left side receives blood from the lungs and pumps it out to the body.
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Prevent Heart Attacks From Alcohol Addiction
The Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported that ending alcohol abuse would prevent 73,000 arterial fibrillations, lead to 34,000 fewer heart attacks, and contribute to 91,000 fewer people with congestive heart failure who require ongoing treatment.
However, alcohol withdrawal can also cause heart problems, and the stress may lead to a heart attack. It is better to understand moderate drinking if you want to drink at all.
If you worry about how much you drink, or are beginning to suffer serious side effects from drinking too much, our compassionate hotline navigators are on the line 24/7 at Who Answers?
But Isnt Some Alcohol Good For Us
In epidemiological studies, the relationship between alcohol consumption and cardiovascular health has been described as a J-shaped curve. This means low to moderate consumption of alcohol is associated with lower mortality rates when compared to zero alcohol consumption. With heavy consumption having the worst effect on mortality.
However, a more critical review of the epidemiological data that took into account genetic variants which impact the effect of alcohol intake on longevity shows that the described J-shaped relationship is not as robust as once thought. In conclusion the review simply states:
The optimal level of alcohol intake for health and longevity is zero
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Mitochondrial Dysfunction And Changes In Mitochondrial Bioenergetics
Researchers have found evidence of mitochondrial dysfunction or impaired bioenergetics related to alcohol consumption. This is not surprising, because mitochondria are a major target for free-radical injury. Dysfunctional mitochondria are less efficient, can become a source of ROS, and are more likely to initiate apoptosis .
Histological studies published several decades ago reported evidence of mitochondrial injury, such as mitochondrial enlargement and disorganization, increased number of mitochondria, mitochondriosis , and an increase in lysosome-like structures that break down biomolecules in myocardial postmortem biopsy samples from people with a long-term history of heavy alcohol consumption .
More contemporary studies have not found evidence of mitochondrial injury in biopsy samples from long-term alcohol drinkers . Differences among results from human studies may relate to small sample sizes, duration of drinking, and degree of myocardial dysfunction. In the Miró study, alcohol drinkers also had been receiving pharmacologic treatments such as beta-adrenergic blocking agents that reduce blood pressure and also may have antioxidant effects.
What Is Heart Disease
There are lots of different types of heart disease. Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease and can lead to sudden death from a heart attack. Its caused by the gradual build-up of fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries in your heart on which blood clots may form. These deposits cause the artery to narrow, and make it harder for it to supply your heart muscle with the oxygen and nutrients which it needs to function normally.
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Interaction With Antihypertensive Drugs
Alcohol interacts with several antihypertensive agents. Experimental studies have shown that alcohol attenuates the effect of centrally acting antihypertensive drugs such as clonidine. Heavy drinking is recognized as one of the factors responsible for resistant hypertension. The interaction between alcohol and antihypertensive drugs and the hypertensive effect of alcohol may have a role in alcohol-related resistant hypertension. In addition, heavy drinkers often show poor adherence to both pharmacological treatment and lifestyle modifications. Habitual drinkers taking antihypertensive drugs are also prone to morning hypertension.
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